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Sussex NHS trusts paid £105m in damages due to negligence causing cerebral palsy, figures reveal.

  • Sussex NHS trusts paid out more than £105 million in damages across 30 clinical negligence claims over the past 10 years
  • Nationally, NHS failings in relation to cerebral palsy have cost tax payers an average of £493 million a year since 2010
  • 1 in 12 cerebral palsy cases over the past decade could have been avoided
  • Law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter is highlighting the importance of clinical negligence claims in funding vital aftercare and safeguarding patients

NHS trusts in Sussex have paid out more than £105 million in damages due to failings leading to cerebral palsy – new figures revealed to law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter have shown.

A freedom of information request submitted to NHS Resolution[i] showed that between the financial years 2010/11 and 2020/21, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, and Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust settled a total of 30 clinical negligence claims related to the lifelong condition, paying out more than £105 million in damages – an average of £3.5 million per case – and £15 million in legal fees.

The data also revealed that nationally, almost 1 in 12 cerebral palsy cases could have been avoided over the past decade, with trusts across the country paying out a total of £4.3 billion in damages and £613 million in legal fees across 1,441 clinical negligence cases. In 2020/21, 268 new claims were brought forward – the highest in at least a decade.

Melanie Minter, partner and head of clinical negligence at Mayo Wynne Baxter, said: “Hypoxic brain injury during childbirth, which is where a baby’s brain gets starved of oxygen, is one of the main causes of cerebral palsy.

“In some cases, this cannot be prevented. However, negligent mistakes by healthcare professionals can lead to a child sustaining a brain injury. Errors can include birth injuries, failing to respond to the umbilical cord being wrapped around a baby’s neck, delayed delivery, and missing signs of foetal distress, such as meconium.

“There is no doubting our NHS is a fantastic institution. But while the first duty of a healthcare system is to do no harm, sometimes things do go wrong and care falls below medical standards. Lessons should be learned but unfortunately time and time again, the same mistakes are made. Clinical negligence claims play a critical role in safeguarding patients against negligent treatment.”

With no available cure, cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects movement and co-ordination. Those living with the condition may face movement, walking and speech difficulties, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, hearing or vision loss, epilepsy, spinal deformities and joint problems – requiring ongoing physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and medication.

Melanie said: “In all cases, clients are predominantly seeking to establish the truth, an apology and to prevent healthcare professionals from making the same mistakes in the future.

“It is also worth noting that cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that can create limitations for children and their families. As well as the physical and emotional side effects, there are significant financial repercussions associated with the costs of care and accommodation a child will require. Many families cannot afford the expensive and essential equipment, care assistance, education, and home adaptations required to help their son or daughter live a fulfilling life.

“One of the key reasons parents decide to make a cerebral palsy claim is to ensure there are sufficient funds to support their child’s ongoing health and care costs. All cerebral palsy settlements are different and it is almost impossible to put an accurate figure on the average pay-out.

“The amount of compensation depends on each individual scenario and can include whether a new vehicle is required for wheelchair access, home adaptations for disability assistance equipment, loss of earnings for parents or the requirement for external carers at home.”

According to disability charity Scope, approximately 1,800 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year, meaning 1 in 12 (8%) of the estimated 18,000 new cases over the past 10 years were caused by negligent mistakes.

For more support regarding clinical negligence claims, please visit www.mayowynnebaxter.co.uk/our-services/medical-negligence

 

[i] Mayo Wynne Baxter submitted a freedom of information request to NHS Resolution, which holds information relating to clinical negligence claims on behalf of all NHS trusts in England. Full responses are available on request.

 

Financial year

Number of obstetric claims and incidents received between FY 2010/11 to 2020/21 where the primary, secondary or tertiary injury is cerebral palsy or brain damage (nationally)

2010/11

227

2011/12

196

2012/13

224

2013/14

223

2014/15

205

2015/16

192

2016/17

235

2017/18

217

2018/19

194

2019/20

186

2020/21

268

Total

2,367

 

Number of obstetric claims closed (or settled as a periodic payment order) between FY 2010/11 to 2020/21 with damages paid, where the primary, secondary or tertiary injury is cerebral palsy or brain damage (nationally)

Number of claims

Damages paid

Legal costs paid (NHS and claimant)

1,441

£4,323,716,679

£613,827,852

 

 

Number of obstetric claims closed (or settled as a periodic payment order) between FY 2010/11 to 2020/21 with damages paid, where the primary, secondary or tertiary injury is cerebral palsy or brain damage (Sussex)

Trust name

Number of claims

Damages paid

Legal costs (NHS and claimant)

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

18

£70,467,598

£9,860,240

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

7

£19,222,444

£3,793,237

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

5

£16,014,272

£2,026,085

Totals

30

£105,704,314

£15,679,562